The Columba Constellation

Columba is a small, faint constellation created in the late sixteenth century. Its name is Latin for dove. Columba is the 54th constellation in size, occupying an area of 270 square degrees. It lies in the first quadrant of the southern hemisphere (SQ1) and can be seen at latitudes between +45° and -90°. The neighbouring constellations are Caelum, Canis Major, Lepus, Pictor, and Puppis. Columba can be seen just to the south of Canis Major and Lepus. Petrus Plancius first depicted Columba on the small celestial planispheres of his large wall map to differentiate the ‘unformed stars’ of the large constellation Canis Major. Columba is also shown on his smaller world map of 1594 and early Dutch celestial globes. Plancius originally named the constellation Columba Noachi (“Noah’s Dove”), referring to the dove that gave Noah the information that the Great Flood was receding. This name is found on early 17th-century celestial globes and star atlases. The best viewing month is in February at right ascension 5h 42m and declination -37 degrees 55min.

Columba is rather inconspicuous, the brightest star, Alpha Columbae, being only of magnitude 2.7. Alpha Columbae, a blue-white star, is traditionally called Phact, which means “ring dove.” Alpha Columbae is 268 light-years from Earth. The only other named star in Columba is Beta Columbae, which has the name Wazn. It is an orange-hued giant star of magnitude 3.1, 87 light-years from Earth.

Columba belongs to the Heavenly Waters family of constellations, along with Carina, Delphinus, Equuleus, Eridanus, Piscis Austrinus, Puppis, Pyxis, and Vela. Columba does not contain any Messier objects. There are no meteor showers associated with the constellation. NGC 1808 is a Seyfert galaxy approximately 40 million light years distant. It has an apparent magnitude of 10.8 and an apparent size of 6′.5 × 3′.9. NGC 1808 is a barred spiral galaxy that shares some similarities with the Milky Way Galaxy. It has an unusual nucleus, shaped like a warped disk, and shows odd flows of hydrogen gas flowing out of the central regions. The galaxy is believed to have a lot of star-forming activity occurring in it. A supernova designated SN 1993af was observed in the galaxy in 1993. NGC 1851 (Caldwell 73) is a globular cluster in Columba. It has an apparent magnitude of 7.3 and is approximately 39,500 light years distant. The cluster occupies an area 11′ in size. NGC 1792 is a spiral galaxy with an apparent magnitude of 10.2. It was discovered by the Scottish astronomer James Dunlop on October 4, 1826. The galaxy has an apparent size of 5’.62 x 2’.63. ESO 306-17 is a type cD3 (E+3) fossil group giant elliptical galaxy located at an approximate distance of 493 million light years from Earth. The galaxy spans about 1 million light years in diameter, which translates to an apparent size of 2.5 arc seconds. It has an apparent magnitude of 13.33.

Exoplanet NGTS-1b and its star NGTS-1 are in Columba.

Credits: Constellations, Constellation Guide, Wikipedia.